Seychelles to seek India’s help in fighting pirates

New Delhi, May 31 (Calcutta Tube) The Indian Ocean archipelago nation Seychelles during the forthcoming visit of its President James Michel will ask India for help in tackling the piracy issue in its waters, which has severely affected its fishing and tourism industry.

‘No country has been as affected by piracy as we have,’ Seychelles High Commissioner Dick Patrick Esparon told IANS here.

The increasing incidents of attacks by Somali pirates on commercial ships, cruise liners and private boats have severely disrupted the economy of the islands spread out on area of 1,374,000 square kilometres, with a population of just 84,000 people.

‘Our fishermen cannot go out to the sea. Piracy is threatening our very way of life. It is a matter of survival,’ he said.

Tuna fishing is one of the main employment generators in the islands, which has been disrupted with exports going down by 30 percent. A similar decline was also noted in the number of visits made by cruises and yachts to the Indian Ocean nation.

‘Piracy is definitely one of the main issues that will be discussed (during President Michel’s visit). India shares our concern, as the issue of piracy also affects India,’ Esparon said.

President Michel will arrive in India June 1 and hold formal discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday. He will return to Seychelles June 3.

‘When the first incident of piracy took place in 2009, our president had asked the Indian prime minister to help in surveillance and fight the scourge. India had responded rapidly,’ he said.

India has been regularly sending warships to the Seychelles for surveillance, the last being INS Savitri which had also made calls to Mauritius and the Maldives.

Defence has been an area of close cooperation, with most of the senior officers of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces and Seychelles Coast Guard trained by India. There are also several Indian defence officials from the army and navy stationed as advisors in the Seychelles.

The Seychelles will be requesting help for further capacity building, which includes more slots of training in Indian institutions as well as stationing additional advisors in their country.

So far, the Seychelles Coast Guard has captured 34 pirates, of whom 23 were repatriated to Somalia. Therefore, the island nation has also recently upgraded its laws to become an international hub for prosecuting pirates.

‘We would certainly like more help from India in helping with the legal framework,’ he said.

President Michel will be addressing a business luncheon organised by the three apex chambers. He will also visit the office of The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) to discuss ecological projects.

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